What should I pay / watch for in timing belt service of '05 Civic

I received so much great feedback to a question I posted yesterday about my wife’s Honda I figured I’d throw this out there, too. Her Civic is up for it’s recommended 105,000 mile service to the timing belt which I understand usually includes water pump and full fluid change.

She went and got 3 quotes from around town, the first saying it’d “start at $600 for ‘everything’”, the second saying “start at $400 but it depends what’s involved” and the third saying “$600 total with tax for absolutely everything.” A coworker of my hers recommended the last place as well.

So, I am going to call back and ask a few questions to make sure we go with the right shop but are these outrageous prices for North Carolina? I know it’s not a simple service at all…what types of things should I be asking the mechanics?


It’s not outrageous - it’s pretty much what you should expect. I would make sure to specify that you want to end up with a new water pump and a new tensioner along with any idler pulleys, if applicable. I’d be wary of the shop with the $400 quote since some shops will only “inspect” things like the tensioner and water pump and replace “if necessary.” Bad idea. With it all torn down and with 100K + on it, the long term best option is to just replace them.

Cam and crank seals should be inspected. Some would say to just replace those as well, but I’m not religious about that. Its true though, that new seals are dirt cheap. The labor to get to them is the same as that to do the timing belt (as with the water pump, tensioner, etc.)

It’s a good idea to replace the water pump now. The part is cheap and the labor is basically already included. If you don’t replace it now and it fails soon, you’ll be paying the labor all over again.

Opinions will vary more on the timing belt tensioner because the part costs more. My dealer said that some people replace it and some people just have it inspected. I chose to replace mine to be safe.

For my Acura, my cost was around $800 or $900 in a not-too-expensive area of the country. I’ve heard of prices anywhere from around $600 to around $1,500 depending on where you live.

By the way, you say that the car is “up for” this timing belt change. I’m pretty sure you’re two years or so overdue. I hope you realize that if it breaks before you replace it that you’ll be throwing away a ton of money for an engine replacement or a major engine repair.

Be sure to get a quote from a Honda dealer if you haven’t already. I would be very wary of that “start at $400 but it depends what’s involved” quote, that is telling me that this person doesn’t much, if any experience with Honda’s.

There are two issues with Honda’s that make them a little different than other cars, the engine turns CCW instead of CW. Honda and VW are the only ones that do that. The crankshaft nut is held with a LOT of torque and takes special tools to remove it. If you get that off without damage, then the rest of the job is pretty straight forward until you have to torque the nut back down, it takes a 3/4" drive torque wrench and the special pulley holding tool.

As far as I know, the Civic doesn’t have balance shafts so there are two oil seals and another belt you don’t have to worry about. I had our 97 Accord done at a Honda dealer last year (second belt service), timing belt, water pump, balance shaft belt, oil seals for the crank,cam, balance shaft and the oil pump and a serpentine belt done for $735.

That service was a year overdue even though the belt only had 75k on it. You can see a picture of that belt at this link, yours is probably worse. The pictures don’t even do justice as to how loose and cracked the timing belt was. BTW, did not do the tensioner, I believe that most tensioner problems are due to the tensioner not being secured properly, I have gone over 300k with them.


Thanks to both of you for the early replies - helpful to know the correct terminology when asking these places what exactly they’ll be doing.

I am aware that a failure in the timing belt can cause extremely expensive engine damage but I was not aware that it was a matter of YEARS vs MILEAGE that I needed to be going by. My long-time mechanic who I trust very much but had to leave behind when we moved told me it was somewhere in the 105,000-110,000 mile range to make sure you have that timing service.

Not disagreeing with you in the least but how would it be a matter of the time versus the mileage? Just curious / want to fully understand.

Rubber deteriorates with time. The carbon fiber belts are very rugged as long as they are encased in something, but once the rubber deteriorates and cracks, it exposes the belts and they start to fray. Remember when you used to take an old pair of jeans and cut the legs off to make shorts? The hemmed edge of the jeans never frayed, but when you cut the legs off and didn’t hem them, they frayed badly, which was a good thing at the time.

Just like tires, once they get past a certain age, you need to replace them even if they have plenty of tread because they “dry rot” and blow out. The time factor does depend on climate, hot humid weather is harder on the belts, but the belts tend to actually break in the winter when the rubber is more brittle due to the cold. The damage is done in the summer but the effect isn’t felt until you are 134.5 miles from home driving through an ice storm.

BTW, since the water pump is being replaced, this counts as a cooling system service as well unless the mechanic puts the old coolant back in, I don’t think any of them would do that though.

One more thing, since they have to drain the cooling system and they are working in the vicinity, you might ask how much for a new thermostat too. You won’t save much as this doesn’t have any overlapping labor but it does save you the cost of the coolant if the thermostat goes bad in a year or two, just a thought.

That’s a hell of an analogy and also gets the point across! Thank you for taking the time to explain it.

So, sounds like we’re getting this taken care of not a minute too soon. I will definitely ask about the thermostat.

the F and K series Honda engines do not rotate counter-clockwise. This is important here because if OP’s Civic is an Si, it’s a K-20A3 and rotates clockwise.

I drive a 1998 Civic, and when I get the timing belt job done, I ask them to include the crankshaft seal in the quote so they can just replace it if it is leaking oil.

I also make sure they intend to use the entire timing belt kit, including the tensioner pulley, not just replacing the belt.

I only get a new water pump with every other timing belt job, but if you can get them to include the water pump for a reasonable price, it couldn’t hurt.

You might ask your shop to quote you on each optional item, then you can decide which set of optional items you want done. Here’s some ideas of optional things they might do at the same time as replacing the timing belt.

  • Replace Idler pulley(s)
  • Replace Tensioner
  • Replace Water pump
  • Full Coolant replacement (making sure to use Honda compatible coolant)
  • Thermostat check/replace
  • Replace Camshaft seal(s)
  • Replace Front crankshaft seal
  • Replace valve cover seals (if applicable)

The other factor in parts replacement is whether they use OEM or aftermarket parts. Get them to tell you in advance (in writing) which they use for each part, OEM or aftermarket.

I think the key factor to success is to choose a mechanic who has done a lot of successful timing belt jobs on Hondas. Presuming the shop has done these many times, I think the OP can let the mechanic determine which way the crankshaft rotates and what tools are needed to do the job.

Edit: I should add when - 5 years ago or so – I replaced the timing belt on my Corolla, I didn’t replace any of those optional items. I replaced the belt, and that was that. And none of those items have failed. Yet.

Only the 1.7 liter engine uses a timing belt. If she has a hybrid or the 2.0 liter engine, it has a timing chain and it does not need to be replaced. Also, the car is a little over the age limit of 7 years. But not so much that it is an issue. I mention this so that if she needs another replacement in 105,000 miles or 7 years, she gets it done when the first of the two criteria is met.

jtsanders wrote:
Also, the car is a little over the age limit of 7 years. But not so much that it is an issue.

This car could have been built in 2004. It’s 2014 now.

Make one of the quotes come from a Honda dealer. Often the dealer’s price for this job is very competitive and you will get an experienced mechanic and quality parts. I would avoid a “chain” shop. A busy independent shop or a dealer will have people with the experience to do the job properly.

I’ve seen independent shops botch timing belt jobs on Hondas more often than national chains. If you choose an independent that isn’t a Honda specialist, you better make sure he really understands what makes timing belt jobs on most Hondas different from most other cars. I’d even go so far as to ask an independent mechanic how this job would be different than on a Ford Focus to make sure he isn’t blowing smoke when he says he can do it.